Tag Archives: lukaku

Burning Down The House

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“I will be successful here. There are players here that won’t be part of that.” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 21st April 2019

“I might just have a look at him again because if he has changed as I think he has… he might have a career here.” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 16th July 2019

Welcome back, readers. Good summer? Did you marvel at the spirit of those brave Lionesses? Were you surfing the wave of national pride instilled by the Cricket World Cup win? Were you one of the 17 attendees of the #glazersout protest at OT last month? Very nice. Settle yourself down and let’s crack on with a brief appraisal of the summer’s transfer dealings prior to what’s set to be another… erm… season in the history of Manchester United Football Club.

To nobody’s surprise, the great summer re-build of 2019 began slowly and never quite gathered pace. The demolition crew got called to another job and somebody forgot to order a skip, presumably. Ander ‘antithesis of the modern footballer’ Herrera went to PSG for a huge payday and Valencia packed his bags for Ecuador at long last… so as things stand it’s pretty much as you were. Having ended last season fantasising about a bloody cull of a dozen or so serial wasters, disappointingly, Woodward appeared to set about this task brandishing a dessert spoon.

At the time of writing, neither of the gruesome twosome of Pogba and Lukaku have been shifted. Both made noises and there were certainly clubs interested, but no one came up with the money funnily enough. As regards Lukaku, if Inter Milan did offer a reported £54M then I’ve no idea why United didn’t snatch their hand off. Just because United vastly overpaid 2 years ago doesn’t mean we should be so presumptuous to expect his next club to do similar. I don’t care about him offering a guaranteed 20 goals a season either, we miss out on at least another 30 due to him tripping over his own feet every 5 minutes.

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Pogba’s forlorn attempt to force a move was every bit of half-hearted as one of his typical performances. If you’re going to style yourself as some nomadic, hired-gun big bollocks a’la Zlatan, then your football has to back that up. £120M fee, £350K a week wages and a £20M Raiola dividend represents an astronomical outlay and should guarantee a return. The fact Madrid prioritised 4-5 other players before turning their attention towards him spoke volumes on how United’s abysmal ROI hasn’t gone unnoticed. Neymar is similarly tainted now too, he comes with that much baggage that willing suitors are thin on the ground.

Whilst we’re on the subject of Pogba and Lukaku, if the pair do remain at the club this season, I’ll make the prediction now that this won’t be the last time I’ll be having a pop at them. I’d better be careful, however. It’s been suggested on social media that United supporters’ criticisms of certain underperforming players carry racist undertones. Presumably this has lain dormant for years whilst the likes of McGrath, Ince, Cole, Yorke, Ferdinand and Evra were universally lauded, only to be unleashed in a ball of pent-up rage and frustration now the team struggles down in 6th place.

I made the mistake of engaging some random on twitter on this subject a couple of months back. He was an intelligent guy who was adamant that race was one of the reasons behind the onslaught of criticism Lingard and Pogba regularly face. I don’t believe that there’s any racial motive behind any such criticism, personally –  but I wasn’t going to win this argument as the lad in question happened to be black. It was a genuine ‘check yourself’ moment as I found myself about to tell a black guy what did and what didn’t constitute racism. Clearly, I was hopelessly out of my depth and not fancying an internet pile-on, I extricated myself from the conversation as quickly as possible.

Just so we’re clear then (if it ever needed pointing out), when I’m calling Lingard a dick, I’m calling him a dick because he’s a dick. I’m not singling him out for abuse because I’ve got a small platform on which I can push a long-suppressed racist agenda onto a load of easily-influenced, potential white supremacists. Although there’s plenty of groups openly peddling that kind of nonsense in 2019, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest United fans’ criticism of players is fuelled by an undercurrent of Infowars-style populism amongst our support. Sorry, not having it.

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As regards incoming players, despite being linked with just about everyone in Europe, deals have been concluded at a breathtakingly slow pace. As of fanzine deadline day (last Saturday), we’ve signed only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. However, yesterday saw news break that Harry Maguire will be announced in due course and the proposed Dybala-Lukaku swap deal is still up in the air.

Whilst there’s a couple of capable defensive additions there, with a little over a week to go until the Chelsea game the squad still looks dangerously imbalanced. Currently we have Pogba, McTominay, Matic, Lingard and Mata… and that’s about it. If we start the season with just 5 established midfielders (I’m not counting Fred, Pereira and Sanchez) then by the middle of September I predict we’re going to be seeing Jones or Rojo featuring there. If that thought doesn’t scare the shit out of you too, then you’re either incredibly brave or completely deranged.

No one was expecting last season’s dysfunctional mess to be fixed in a single transfer window, but I can’t help feeling we’re quickly going to regret the soporific approach to squad re-structuring that’s been in evidence. Much needed pruning of deadwood like Darmian and Rojo has failed to materialise, which makes it all the more frustrating how each received undeserved, extended terms in the vain hope of maximising returns from potential buyers. As predicted at the time, we appear to be stuck with the pair indefinitely as no other club appears to be in the slightest bit interested.

Ole may well publicly bemoan the “hard” market and shortened transfer window, but surely the club should have anticipated what was awaiting them this summer? United are no longer in an exalted position where they can bully the likes of Leicester and Newcastle into reluctantly selling their prized assets. No club in the Premier League is in a position where they are are forced to sell because everybody is stinking rich now. United have spent years extolling the virtues of their commercial acumen and infinite revenue streams; rather than making a statement and demonstrating a genuine desire to get back to the game’s pinnacle, most of this summer has instead been spent splashing about and treading water.

Copyright Red News – August 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

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Round and Round

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Firstly, a public service announcement. Elsewhere in today’s mag some of my fellow contributors have been tasked with recalling the glorious culmination of the treble season; (clearly a ploy by the Editor to end the season on a positive note.) This column flatly refuses to join in as I maintain the utter shitshow witnessed over the last 9 months needs putting to bed. So if you’re here for nostalgia and a reminder of a time when players cared about performances and results, feel free to turn the page and move on. If mean-spirited invective and doom-laden pointlessness is your thing, then do continue reading. Thank you.

A few years ago when Liverpool were splashing around in the same puddle of mediocrity United find themselves now, it became a thing to laugh at their regular claims at having ‘turned a corner’. 3 games unbeaten: ‘turned a corner’; win at Old Trafford: ‘turned a corner’; sign Alberto Aquilani… ‘turned a corner’. That’s now United, except rather than turning corners, instead we’ve perfected the art of going round in circles. There’s no deviation from the set path we’re on, just an 18 month cycle of sacking managers and making the same clueless decisions over and over again.

This season ends much the same the last as the last one did. We have one of the most highly remunerated squads in world football but it’s riddled with players who routinely underperform. Mourinho dragged this sorry bunch to a 2nd place finish last year and called it one of his greatest ever achievements in management. People laughed. The club hierarchy decided not to back him in the transfer market so he lost the plot and did what Mourinho does when he doesn’t get his own way. He fell out with everybody and got himself sacked. Quite honestly, I don’t blame him one bit at this point.

2 years ago in the aftermath of the Europa League final, Mourinho gave an interview about his tactical preparations for the final and one comment was particularly telling. “I even joked with Smalling – ‘With your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back!” So here we had a manager fully aware of his players’ limitations, adapting accordingly and succeeding for the best part. That summer we bought Victor Lindelof, who despite showing some much-improved form in recent months struggled badly during his first season. Fair enough, that was to be expected.

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Clearly United needed further reinforcement in central defence, but it wasn’t forthcoming as Woodward allegedly knew better than the manager. We’d signed Bailly (constantly injured) and Lindelof (still acclimatising to English football) but another new face was refused. Smalling signed a new contract in December and then Woodward sacked Mourinho a week later. So who decided to offer Smalling the new contract? Did Mourinho sanction this because he was refused a new defender or is Woodward making calls on player retention ahead of the management team?

Martial is another one who Mourinho had sussed out months ago. Undoubtedly talented, but more often than not he doesn’t appear in the slightest bit interested. Mourinho called him out last summer but wasn’t backed, before Martial’s form briefly re-appeared in the autumn and an uneasy truce was reached. Mourinho gets sacked at Christmas, Martial signs a 5 year contract in January then quelle surprise, his form drops off a cliff again. So once again, who decided to offer Martial the new contract? Was this a Mourinho or an Ed Woodward decision?

There’s a similarly sorry tale associated with almost every player in the squad now. Take Pogba as another prime example, moonwalking round the gaff and lording it up like he’s the fucking Fonz or something. All whilst he’s making eyes towards Spain in the hope of earning another bumper payday for his shitstain of an agent. Once again, Mourinho knew exactly what he was dealing with here but was never going to succeed in a battle of wills with the club’s greatest commercial asset. Pogba might have 35 million Instagram followers in thrall to his antics but I personally don’t know anyone who isn’t desperate to see the back of him.

If Pogba seems a tad misguided as regards his current standing amongst supporters, his mate Lukaku is absolutely clueless. This clown actually appears to be of the opinion that he’s somehow in demand and has more attractive options on the table for next season. Mate, if you can find ANYONE else prepared tolerate your first touch who’ll pay you £250K per week then cheerio and good luck. Just imagine him rocking up at Juventus to assist the Ronaldo show. 3 misplaced passes in the first 15 minutes of his debut and he’d be ushered out of the country and never heard of again.

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The level of delusion radiating from a number of our players is quite incredible. It’s clearly catching as well, as noises persist that Marcus Rashford thinks he’s in with a shout of moving to Barcelona. Which Barcelona is this then? Is there one in an alternate universe that welcomes 10 goal a season strikers with a routinely piss-poor conversion rate? Yep, it all sounds dead plausible this. Presumably he’ll be taking his imbecilic, best mate Lingard with him too and we’ll be getting Suarez and Messi in part-exchange.

The epic climax to the 1998/99 season truly signalled the end of an era at Manchester United. At that point, the process of the club becoming more concerned with financial rather than on-pitch success was well underway, but the people driving the commercial interests of the club were still outnumbered by stakeholders interested in football. Fast forward 20 years and where are we now? Owned by Florida-based carpetbaggers, loaded with debt and being dictated to by wankers like Raiola and Pogba. How the mighty have fallen.

It really doesn’t matter who the so-called manager is when the bloke actually calling the shots is a star-struck, ex-investment banker with no track record in football whatsoever beyond signing strategic alliances with pillow case manufacturers. The question of Woodward’s competency shouldn’t even be up for debate. Under his stewardship, the club have re-written the book on the consequences of poor succession planning and set the benchmark in how to dismantle a successful football team following two decades of sustained dominance.

What a mess. I’ll see you in August for much more of the same.

Copyright Red News – May 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3

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Well December went well, didn’t it? It all started so well with that memorable win at the Emirates, but sneaking out of there with 3 points unfortunately meant that we’d used up an entire month’s worth of luck in the space of 2 hours. By the time Boxing Day arrived it felt like Van Gaal had returned like the Ghost of Christmas Past. The players appeared to sense this too and joined in by attempting a macabre re-enactment of the infamous Norwich home game that ruined Christmas 2015.

Factor in a 0-0 draw against Southampton a few days later and it momentarily felt like we’d regressed 2 years. We haven’t, thankfully… I genuinely believe that. It was just a hefty kick in the bollocks that needs to be kept in perspective. Since I wrote here a month ago we’ve played a dozen games and suffered a major dip in form. Injuries, fatigue, a post-derby hangover… blame whatever you want. Yet we’re 2nd in the league and comfortably reached the CL knock-out stages – so we’re not doing all that badly.

Let’s be realistic here: over half of United’s squad still comprises of haphazardly recruited, distinctly underwhelming footballers – good players, but not great players. Most will be replaced as soon as their contracts are up. Forget the net spend figures and Jose/Pep comparisons being bandied about as they’re irrelevant for the most part. Looking at the talent we have in place, I maintain that we’re overachieving with what we’ve actually got.

Unfortunately, the gargantuan ball ache that nobody anticipated this season was Manchester City’s ridiculous form. The fact they’ve amassed an unprecedented points total at this stage skews the picture to the point that any progress made by United has been obscured. 2 years ago we’d have been 3 points clear at the top of the table with 47 points after 22 games. Instead, we’re sat 15 points off the pace so understandably, the mood about the place is poised somewhere between subdued and clinically depressed.

So, what to do? According to your average, internet-based moron, being 15 points behind City and with everyone feeling a bit sorry for themselves, it’s time to sack the manager. Quite how anyone could reach that conclusion is baffling, but such a mindset does exist out there. Can you imagine the alternative to Mourinho at this juncture? I can. United hovering just above mid-table with Giggs and Phil Neville in charge whilst Paul Scholes sits in the ITV studio claiming we’re ‘doing pretty well’ all things considered. Meanwhile, the entire footballing world pisses themselves laughing at our expense. No thanks, I’ll stick with Jose if you don’t mind.

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That doesn’t mean to say I don’t think Mourinho has to change if he is to succeed in the long-term at Old Trafford. I think we were all guilty of underestimating the extent to which Guardiola would impact on City’s fortunes this season, but does Mourinho have to ability to drag this current United squad up to their current level? Either by instilling some radical shift in mindset and tactics, or by making some unforeseen changes in personnel.

To put this another way, Ferguson re-invented his United teams numerous times due to the shifting demands of what he deemed necessary to succeed. He famously gambled on youth in 1995, built a team of warriors to out-battle Arsenal, then set about constructing a side that proved even more consistent than Mourinho’s powerful 2005 Chelsea vintage. Basically, we might need a re-think if we’re going to get anywhere near City over the next couple of years – it’s not enough just to keep our fingers crossed hoping they won’t quite hit the same heights next season.

Take Lukaku as an example here – signed at huge expense to lead our attack for the next 5-6 years. Although his goals contribution has been respectable, I don’t think I’m being that unkind in suggesting he’s not the most fluid, all-round footballer to have graced the No.9 shirt at OT. Even as a flat-track bully, he doesn’t do that much bullying and he manages to miss as many sitters as both Rashford and Martial combined. I’ve no desire to kick Romelu whilst he’s down here at all, he’s clearly trying his hardest. I’m merely suggesting that Jose might benefit from re-visiting his plan of having him as our attacking figurehead for the next 5 years.

If you don’t agree with this harsh assessment of Lukaku’s form, then take some solace from the fact that regular whipping boy Jesse Lingard has improved immeasurably since being singled out for a slagging off here a couple of months back. Whilst Lukaku and the returning Zlatan have looked well off the pace, Lingard has carried the team over the last couple of months and proven himself United’s most potent attacking threat by miles. Fair play to him. I will happily admit to being wrong and I genuinely hope he maintains this new level of consistency he’s reached. I still think he’s a bit of a dickhead, and acknowledge the fact he’s quite entitled to hold the same opinion of me.

Despite the team’s solid progress overall, we’re left facing the grim prospect of watching City steamroller towards the title for the next few months. As unpalatable as this may be, we’re just going to have to suck it up as every minor setback befalling United is inevitably blown out of all proportion. We’ve still got much to play for despite the league summit being out of reach; still in the FA Cup and worse teams than ours have won the Champions League in the not too distant past. I appreciate I’m clutching at straws here, but how sweet would that be? Shades of ’68 as City win the title whilst United usurp them by claiming the big one. Lingard screamer to win it in the last minute, anyone?

Copyright Red News – January 2018

www.rednews.co.uk